AdTension. “My main point here is that we need to get out of the advertiser-centered frame of mind about how markets for information work. We need to start imagining the markeptlace as it exists now, and wants to exist, in the online world. This is a marketplace where customers are participants, and not just consumers. Where they are no longer just a mass of passive ‘eyeballs’.”
As a general principle,
I love the internet. After all, I’ve made a very comfortable living by working on internet projects over the last 11 years, and I’ve met some wonderful friends and all the rest of it – all through the net.
Sometimes, though, I’m brought face to face with an undeniable and amazing fact: the web in Canada sucks. Badly. The infrastructure is there, the rate of high-speed adoption is second to none in the world, some of the great internet companies and services have come from Canada… but in terms of local, regional, or even national services, the situation is really lame.
What brings this on is a simple but telling tale. For curiosity’s sake, I was taking a look at take-out sushi restaurants in Montreal. I noted (and have noticed on the street) that there are the Sushi Shops and Soto/Soto Express. The Sushi Shop has a pretty good little site – no problem there. So I tried soto.ca andsotoexpress.ca. Nothing. No response, not even a squatter. OK, let’s check Google. The first result is from some Washington DC magazine, and it confirms that soto.ca is the right address… or seems to confirm it. Of course there’s still nothing there, though.
Hmmm, I thought, maybe Soto has gone out of business or something. So I cruise over to the Canada.com Montreal Gazette site to check. Surely there will be even an excerpt of a story in there if they’ve closed up in the last little while. Uh, no.
First of all, you can’t even search just the Montreal site, at all. Then, the only results (most of which are already guaranteed to be useless, as they come from across Canada) are from the last 7 days. Only. CyberPresse, the online arm of the La Presse group of papers, is worse: there is no search at all.
Then, I went back to the Canada.com site, this time to their Yellow Pages, and tried a search for sushi. I managed eventually (through the worst-designed search I’ve seen in years) to get a list of sushi places… but there was not a single link. They had links to maps, to directions… but no links to websites that I know for a fact exist. What’s the point!?! To add insult to injury, of course none of this stuff is touched by Google, so it’s completely hidden from view to locals or to the world.
Basically, according to the Web, a supposedly thriving restaurant chain in one of Canada’s major cities does not exist. And there are no local online news media through which you can confirm or deny this possibility in any way. What, is it 1992?
Last week Scoble wrote
that building a marketing site without including RSS feeds should be a firing offense, and today he updated his post with links to comments from a couple of Jupiter analysts: Eric Peterson and Michael Gartenberg.
I mostly agree with Scoble, but I think he’s expressing it backwards. The point isn’t to have RSS, period, the point is to quit building boring, static sites – sites that frankly aren’t a good fit for RSS. After all, a static site with RSS but no updates doesn’t really make a blip in any newsreader until it updates. Static site = nothing new to come down the RSS pipe = site that few will notice or care about.
So rather than insisting that sites need RSS, I think it’s more useful to suggest that marketing sites should include at least a small dynamic, regularly updating component and hopefully quite a bit more. In that context, to leave out an RSS feed is ridiculous. But it’s not about the feed, primarily, but about the content on the site in the first place.
[Note: I posted virtually the same thing already in the comments at Dave Winer’s RSS site]
A quick question:
Why do all ad/marketing/pr/web agency sites suck? For both personal and professional reasons I browse such sites on a regular basis, and the ONLY reaction they give me is to completely lose confidence that they have the slightest clue what they are doing.
There are exceptions, generally among very small shops like my friends at Plank, and even more so 37Signals, to single out two of the decent ones. But the big shops – they display nothing but complete ignorance of the web; which, in 2004, is equal to ignorance of the media and marketing world in general.
Earlier this month,
Peter Merholz wrote a very interesting post about audience segmentation and the web: Thinking About Audience Segmentation. I was provoked enough to comment there, and the comment I left was long enough to repeat here.
…I have been frustrated by poor attempts at such segmentation for years, both in trying to serve clients (or bosses) who insist that we try and by sites that try and segment me. I think there are a couple of important things to note.
First of all, I think the University example is telling – it is easy to assume that in a university context, the segments are going to be quite distinct. But that assumption is meaningless until thoroughly tested with the segments themselves.
Second, segments work really well when they exist (or more accurately, is reflected) in the product, information, or other subject of the website itself. For cellphone companies, for instance, that actually have different pricing for businesses and consumers. The danger is in assuming too much. Just because business users expense their phones and so can afford more $$ doesn’t mean a “personal” customer doesn’t want your more expensive offering. Making it less accessible to them based on incorrect segmentation can equal shooting yourself in the foot.
Third, and stemming from #2, in my attempts to DO this kind of segmentation in large sites, I have found that in fact you want to allow EVERYONE to access ALL of the content through each view (and NOT by “pretending” to be in a different group). The key to the segmentation is that it is just one particular entry point, not a hard and fast ‘rule’. I learned this the hard way – by segmenting stuff OUT of different views then having to put it right back in later on. Views provide emphasis and prioritize certain information over other information, they don’t become the sole container in which any information resides.